Gallacher takes over at UWS to ‘continue delivering growth’

New MD Chris Gallacher, Executive Chairman Asim Sarwar, Commercial Director Anshu Chandra and Finance Director Osmond Ramsay.

Off the back of another strong year, United Wholesale (Scotland) has promoted Chris Gallacher to the role of Managing Director amid a flurry of change at senior management level as the company continues to develop its strategy for long-term growth.

Glasgow-based wholesaler United Wholesale (Scotland) has unveiled a raft of important changes at the business as it continues to develop the strategy it believes will deliver long-term sustainable growth.

The most eye-catching change of all is the news that Chris Gallacher (pictured left) has taken over the role of Managing Director from Asim Sarwar (pictured centre left) who has become Executive Chairman, a role he says will allow him to “focus his energy on the changes required to make sure that UWS remains rooted to his customer-focused vision”.

Anshu Chandra (pictured centre right) has been appointed to take on the new position of Commercial Director to take overall control of the commercial function at UWS. Chandra, who was the Licensed Trading Director, will be responsible for the day-to-day strategic direction of the commercial team as well as focusing on new business opportunities. In a related move, David Riley joins the team this month to take over from Chandra as Licensed Trading Director. Riley has over 30 years’ experience in the convenience and independent retail industries.

The management team had already been strengthened with the addition of Osmond Ramsay (pictured right) who joined the business as Finance Director in August 2018 from the Co-op Food and, according to Sarwar, “has already played an instrumental role in professionalising the business”.

Store of the future

Sarwar also confirmed that later this year the Queenslie depot will be relaunched as a ‘Store of the Future’ that will deliver “a step change aimed at raising the bar with regard to customers’ experience and interactions”.

The shake-up follows another very positive year for UWS with turnover increasing by 4.5% to £233m and underlying operating profits up £0.3m to £1.8m. Overall profit before tax increased by £1.1m to £2.6m, although this included the disposal of the Terston House property.

Commenting on the results, Sarwar said: “The wholesale market was already a crowded and challenging sector but Tesco’s £4bn takeover of Booker and the Coop’s acquisition of Nisa Retail were designed to give both of the retailers a significant presence in the wholesale sector to drive buying terms and extend their reach into a very competitive convenience sector. Against this backdrop, we have continued to focus on our customers and our customers’ customers to deliver improved range and service which has led to increased sales and profits.”

Despite the massive flux currently going in the industry, Sarwar remains convinced that “exciting times” lie ahead for both UWS and the wider industry.

“The recent period of consolidation and change, fierce competition from the discounters, shopping habits continuing to change and the on-line shopping revolution have prompted both wholesalers and retailers to look to bolster their core businesses,” he says. “With an ever-changing landscape and the increased pace of change, we must look at the bigger picture to ensure we remain the preferred wholesaler for our customers, our supplier partners and ultimately the end consumer.

“It is only by working very closely with our customers and supplier partners can we continue to innovate and ensure that we remain competitive whilst delivering an industry-leading brand. We are the best at what we do and that can only be achieved by maintaining high levels of customer service at the right price, with the right range.”

Smooth operator

Sarwar’s new role will see him use his wealth of experience and knowledge to continue to oversee the running of the business and support the refreshed management team while also putting in place “the changes required to drive an improved offer, increased range and create a smoother operation that is fit for the future”.

The man charged with delivering that future on a daily basis will be ex-Booker and Scotfresh executive Chris Gallacher who joined UWS in January 2018 as Group Director.

Sarwar commented: “It is important that as we continue to take this remarkable business forward and we need to have the right management team and structure in place to do that. In Chris, we have the ideal candidate to take over the day-to-day running of the wholesale business. Chris has an impressive track record across both Wholesale and Retail operations. His man-management skills and ability to foster lasting and collaborative relationships with suppliers, customers and colleagues will ensure that we continue to focus on serving our customers. Wholesaling is in my blood and I will continue to guide and advise the team but taking on the role as Executive Chairman will allow me to look at the bigger picture and set out my plans for achieving these aims, in what is a very fast-paced industry.”

‘Widely respected’

Gallacher took the opportunity to thank Sarwar for his vision, great leadership and guidance over the last 16 years, the last 12 of which saw him steer the company through the majority of its growth phases as Managing Director. “We would not be where we are today without him at the helm,” says Gallacher. “Asim has been instrumental in driving our symbol group Day Today to the level that it is today. His knowledge, commercial acumen and dedication have seen Asim become one of the most widely respected and well know figures in this industry, helped in no small part by his honesty, integrity and incredible dedication. We will continue to drive the business forward with these values at our core, and I am honoured to receive his vote of confidence and support in taking over the role as Managing Director.”

The moves, believes Sarwar, will allow UWS to build a strong, profitable future. He concluded: “These changes are vital to our future. In the Day-Today and Usave offerings, we probably have the most relevant offerings in Scotland. However, if we are to remain at the head of an ever-growing pack, the business has to continue to evolve. In order to do this, we need to tackle all challenges head on to continue to drive forward. With the pace of change as quick as it has ever been, it felt like the right time to create a stronger and more sustainable management structure to reflect that, whilst releasing my time to look further down the line at our future opportunities and challenges.”